Three NGOs and eight victims of climate disasters from seven countries have filed an unprecedented criminal complaint in Paris, pointing out the alleged responsibility of the French oil company TotalEnergies in global warming.

The lawsuit has been formally filed “against shareholders of TotalEnergies and the company itself.”

Before the Palace of Justice in Paris, Lafforge has insisted that the Prosecutor’s Office must decide whether to launch in-depth investigations to “really determine the responsibilities (…) between the leaders of the board of directors and among the shareholders to know who made the decisions ”.

The complaint has been filed for four crimes that, if proven, entail fines and prison sentences of between one and three years. The crimes are endangering the lives of third parties, involuntary manslaughter, refraining from fighting an accident and attack to biodiversity.

For the lawyer of the French NGOs Bloom and Alliance Santé Planétaire, and of the Mexican Nuestro Futuro, this demand is justified by “the particularly dramatic episodes” of the eight people who declare themselves victims of climate change in Australia, Zimbabwe, France, Belgium , Philippines, Greece and Pakistan.

One of them is Benjamin Van Bunderen Robberechts, founder in Belgium of an association in memory of his friend Rosa Reichel, who died at the age of 15 after being swept away by a flood of water in the summer of 2021 during the floods that affected several European countries.

Van Bunderen has stated that it is proven that these floods were caused by climate warming and that TotalEnergies has been one of the main culprits for decades.

Lafforge has acknowledged that the company, the world’s sixth largest company in the oil and gas sector, is not the only one to blame. But he has emphasized that “diluted responsibility does not mean absence of responsibility” and that “the fact that it is not the only one does not exonerate it from its responsibility.”

“This complaint – he added – is not symbolic, it is not anecdotal. We ask that the large oil and gas groups be held accountable to the victims because they are at the origin of climate warming, at the origin of climate imbalances, of these climatic events with serious consequences, with hundreds, with thousands of deaths.

For the three NGOs that sign the lawsuit, “the leaders and shareholders of TotalEnergies are perfectly aware that climate change kills, and yet, they have cynically opted to increase oil and gas production for one reason only: to maximize profits.” benefits”.

They consider that TotalEnergies is “the second most expansionist fossil energy company in the world” in terms of investments, when the International Energy Agency recommends ending any new hydrocarbon extraction project from 2021.

Beyond the case of this French company, with this initiative they try to stop the extraction of fossil fuels, which they blame for causing a “globocide”, that is, “the irreversible disturbance of the Earth system and the biosphere as a whole.” ”.

Precisely today, Tuesday, the CEO of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné, was in Angola, where he was received by President Joao Lourenço to announce an investment of 6,000 million dollars for a project (in which Petronas and Sonangol are also partners) of extraction of oil off the coast of the African country.

The known as Kaminho project, which the three partners hope to have operational from 2028, should produce 70,000 barrels of oil per day.

“Climaticide”, “imagewashing”, human rights violations… The French oil giant TotalEnergies is the recipient of numerous legal proceedings promoted by NGOs that have focused their activity on climate, environmental and social issues, although some have been rejected.

The latest judicial initiative to date is carried out by three NGOs (Bloom, Alliance Santé Planétaire, Nuestro Futuro) and eight people who consider themselves victims of climate change, who have demanded a criminal investigation against TotalEnergies, its directors and its shareholders.

The complaint, whose verisimilitude and seriousness must be assessed by the prosecutor’s office, seeks to recognize the responsibility of the oil group and its directors “for their contribution to climate change and its fatal impact on human and non-human lives” due to the performance of related activities. with fossil fuels. But there are many more cases.

In October 2023, a complaint for involuntary manslaughter and failure to assist a person whose life was in danger was filed against TotalEnergies. The promoters were survivors or relatives of victims of the bloody jihadist attack in Palma (Mozambique) in March 2021, where TotalEnergies is leading a megaproject.

After collecting the observations of the company, which has been accused of negligence in the evaluation of security risks, the prosecutor’s office will evaluate “the opportunity for prosecution, classification or subsequent investigations,” it was indicated at the beginning of May.

In January 2024, around fifty Yemeni citizens filed a lawsuit against TotalEnergies before the Nanterre judicial court, accusing them of contaminating the land and waters of a desert region of Hadramawt, where the group has been exploiting oil wells since the 1990s.

The most controversial oil project is the “Tilenga” drilling of 419 wells in Uganda, a third of which are located in the Murchison Falls Natural Park. The exploitation is associated with the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, intended to transport hydrocarbons from Tilenga to the Indian Ocean crossing Tanzania over 1,445 km.

Twenty-six Ugandans and five French and Ugandan associations (AFIEGO, Friends of the Earth France, NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda, Survie and the TASHA Research Institute) launched a civil action in June 2023 to request “reparation” before the court of Paris for various damages: abusive expropriations, insufficient compensation and harassment.

The associations Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal and Stop EACOP-Stop Total in Uganda also filed a criminal complaint in Nanterre in September that, according to them, “is unprecedented” because it cites TotalEnergies “before the criminal judge for acts similar to ‘climaticide’.

Three NGOs – Greenpeace France, Friends of the Earth France and Notre Affaire à Tous – sued TotalEnergies in March 2022 in a civil lawsuit for “deceptive commercial practices”, and in which the veracity of its ambition when it comes to promising carbon neutrality by 2050 and presenting gas as the “cleanest” fossil energy.

The Nanterre prosecutor’s office also opened a criminal investigation in 2021 for “deceptive commercial practices”, following the complaint in 2020 by several environmental defense associations (Wild Legal, Sea Shepherd France and Darwin Climax Coalitions), which accuse this oil group of advertise a carbon neutrality strategy, in contradiction, according to them, with the continuation of their fossil fuel projects.

Invoking a “duty of vigilance” law, Friends of the Earth, Survie and four Ugandan associations demanded the suspension of the Tilenga and EACOP projects from TotalEnergies in 2019, although the procedure was considered inadmissible in early 2023. After that failure The associations initiated a new compensation procedure.

In the name of this same law, a coalition of six NGOs and 16 cities, including Paris and New York, accused the company of “climate inaction” in 2020, an action also considered inadmissible in July 2023.

In both cases, the courts ruled that the plaintiffs had not sufficiently explored the avenue of dialogue with the oil giant before taking legal action, as provided by law.

Two associations (the NGO Darwin Climax Coalition and the Ukrainian Razom We Stand) criticize TotalEnergies for having continued to exploit a field in Russia after the start of the war in Ukraine, which would have made it possible to manufacture the fuel used by Russian military aviation, and they filed charges of complicity in Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The Justice declared it inadmissible for procedural reasons in October 2023, after a first appeal already rejected in 2022.